Rangers aim to end slump and clinch playoff spot on the road against Columbus

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs blue jackets faceoff 10-10

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

The Rangers (43-26-9) have had two straight chances to clinch a playoff spot, and lost in regulation against non-playoff teams in both of those games. Tonight, they have another shot at putting that checkmark next to their names when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets (31-39-8).

Things have been bad for the Rangers lately. They’ve lost three straight games, including two bad losses to teams that they should have beaten. Defensive lapses, some bad goaltending, and poor play with the puck has doomed them. The defensive coverage has been embarrassing at best and the usual culprits have been the main offenders. The offense has been lacking at times, often sitting back and not pressing, or just not being able to transition the puck and create anything.

Following these losses, the Rangers are now five points behind Pittsburgh with a game in hand, and just two points ahead of the Islanders, but they have played one less game. New York looks like a team that is getting lucky to slip into the postseason. They’ve ridden two hot streaks; one to start the year, and one where JT Miller was practically scoring a goal a game. Other than that, it’s been a pretty average to mediocre Rangers team.

On top of that, the team would be heading into the playoffs with no momentum and playing bad hockey. They’ve won just four of the last 11 games (4-4-3) and just seven games (7-6-3) since the trade deadline. On top of that, the coaching staff continues to do nothing to correct the constant recurring mistakes that show up every game.

This is the last game of the season series between the Ranger and Blue Jackets, and it’s the Rangers final road game of the season. The Rangers have won the previous three games this season, including a 2-1 win at MSG back on February 29th thanks to a shorthanded Derek Stepan goal. Oscar Lindberg has scored four of the team’s 11 goals against Columbus, while Zuccarello has scored three times.

Joonas Korpisalo will be the starter for the Blue Jackets, coming off of a strong one goal, 26 save performance against the Hurricanes. He’s been better than Sergei Bobrovsky this season and has gotten more starts towards the end of the season. Korpisalo is 15-10-4 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.64 GAA.

Cam Atkinson has enjoyed a breakout season, continuing his upward trend of offensive production over the last few seasons. His 27 goals beat his career high set last year by five, and he’s already 10 points over his previous career high in that category as well. Atkinson has good hands, can score on the breakaway or utilize his good shot, so the Rangers need to look out for him.

Perhaps the biggest surprise this season has been third year center Boone Jenner. Before this season, his career high in goals was 16 and his career high in points was 29, both coming back in the 2013-14 season. But under John Tortorella, Jenner has seen his offensive production skyrocket, scoring 30 goals along with 18 assists to sit in second place on the team in scoring. Jenner has four goals in the last five games and will certainly be a factor tonight.

Henrik Lundqvist will look to break his bad streak of starts as he’s back in net tonight. Hank has been in net for the three losses, and only played 20:46 against the Sabres on Saturday. He allowed three goals on nine shots and was pulled for Antti Raanta. Lundqvist has been leaned on way too much and the defense has been horrific in front of him. That’ll need to get better so that all the pressure isn’t on Lundqvist. He’s usually very motivated after a poor performance, so my guess is that he’ll be solid.

Oscar Lindberg is stuck in the press box again, which means Tanner Glass and the fourth line needs to dominant. They had a streak of four games or so where Glass, Moore and Stalberg were playing dominant hockey. Lately, they’ve done virtually nothing. So if Vigneault refuses to make changes and put his better players on the ice, then the guys he chooses need to be good. Glass needs to do more than hit people, Stalberg needs to use his speed better, and Dom Moore needs to be a hell of a lot more consistent. Stalberg has 17 points (11-6-17) in 21 career games vs Columbus.

Everytime Rick Nash touches the puck in Columbus, he’s showered with boos from the fans that wish he was still on their team. Nash has three goals in the last six games as he continues to try and be consistent with his offensive production. He needs to rebound from a quiet two shot game against the Sabres on Saturday.

The Rangers and the Blue Jackets will faceoff at Nationwide Arena at 7 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.


Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-JT Miller

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Eric Staal-Kevin Hayes-Jesper Fast

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Viktor Stalberg

Ryan McDonagh-Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist

Posted on April 4, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Excellent wrap-up. Thanks


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